15 February 2013

Add Buttons & Buttonholes

Now comes a particularly monumental stage of making the Mathilde Blouse – sewing on the buttonholes and buttons! You’ll be able to do the blouse up, y’all!

Some people like to save the buttons until last – there’s a certain sense of ritual in sitting down to hand-sew buttons on as the final stage in a make. Personally I think it makes more sense to get the bodice fitted and finished before adding the sleeves. But skip ahead to the sleeves stage first if you prefer.

Before you start stitching, double check the placement of the buttonholes. The buttonholes go on the right back opening and the buttons go on the left back opening. (My pattern cutting teacher once told me the mnemonic, “Women’s clothing does up right over left, because women are always right”. Totally sexist, admittedly, but I remembered it!) Are the markings still visible on your garment after all that sewing? Are they in the centre of the rectangle? If not, get your pattern out and mark them on again. Line up the edge of the opening with the “fold line” on the pattern, and position the top edge of the pattern 15mm / 5/8” above the neckline to account for seam allowance.

Right, now let's get stitching...

1) Stitch the buttonholes on the right back opening. Depending on what sewing machine you have, you'll probably do either a 4-step buttonhole if it's manual, or a 1-step automatic wizzy one if it's computerised. MAKE has a tutorial on both.

2) Open up the buttonholes carefully with a seam ripper. To avoid ripping right through them, make an incision in one end, gently rip towards the centre, then do the same in the other direction.

3) Now we’re going to mark the button positions on the left side. Place the right back opening over the left one (right over left, remember) as if you were doing the blouse up, then pin in place. Push the tip of a chalk pencil or washable pen through the buttonhole, 3mm / 1/8” down from the top, to mark the button positions on the left back opening with a little dot.

4) Sew the buttons on by hand, centring them over the little dots you just marked. Tip: If you find yourself frustrated by your thread knotting up, invest in some thread wax which will keep things gliding along more smoothly.

Et voila! It's starting to look like a blouse now!


  1. Your Mathilde tutorials (like all your tutorials in fact) are so beautifully clear and well photographed.

    Love your nail polish too!

  2. I'm weird in that I prefer putting any and all sleeves in flat rather than set them in, so my sleeves go in and then the side seam of both is stitched up before I do any buttons/buttonholes...

    1. Ah yes, just replied your comment on my other post about that...

  3. Haha! I love the little quip about how to remember which way the buttons go, nice and easy to remember, LOL!

    I read somewhere that you should put a pin in the end of the buttonhole if you plan to use your seam ripper on it--that way you can't go too far. But I really like the little chisels; line it up, smack it, done! :-)

    1. That's a good idea. There is something so satisfying about ripping through those stitches!

  4. I prefer sewing buttons on by machine. You don't need any special feet or equipment and it takes a fraction of the time. They're a lot longer lasting too. A buttonhole foot is nice, but not necessary. You also can remove snap on foot and use the bare ankle to hold the button in place. If you can drop feed dogs, do, then set machine for zig zag. Take a few manual stitches to make sure the clearance between holes is enough. Then pedal to the medal. If feed dogs don't drop...no problem. Just set stitch length to zero and use zig zag.

  5. Hello Tilly! Thank you for such a wonderful site full of info! A few months ago, I picked up my little old Singer I'd bought years ago but never used and it's been love and sewing obsession ever since. So considering myself to be on a novice/intermediate sew..sewer…seamstress border, I decided to make a chiffon Mathilde! Why not? Well, I'm discovering why not never having worked with chiffon. I'm loving the blouse and it's "character" already nonetheless. :)
    I wanted to give a heads up that the buttonhole link above for Make isn't working. http://makezine.com/craft/sewing_101_buttonholes/ is the one you're referring to, I hope.
    Thanks again!! xo


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